I want to tell you about a dream I had this week. I’ve had a similar one before. Maybe you’ve had one like this too. My dream started as I was sitting in a chair at a pool party at a place I didn’t recognize. At the party were some of my kids’ friends and their parents. It was a fun event, like a birthday party. But as I looked around, I realized to my horror, that I didn’t have any clothes on. Instantly, I was super-embarrassed and used my hands to cover up, frantically looking for a towel. It was a moment of sheer terror.
Ever had a dream like that? It is astounding what our brains and emotions can create in our minds when we are asleep. The images are so vivid. And often it is not hard to figure out why we had certain dreams. Our fear and anxiety comes out, right?
So apparently, I’ve got some fear going on in my life. What am I afraid of? Well I’ll tell you. Since 2011 I have been an adjunct professor for Lancaster Bible College teaching online Bible courses. The course I have taught most often is a six-week intensive about how to study the Bible. During those six weeks my life can be crazy busy. Normally, I can swing it, but last fall I started doctoral studies, taking two classes of my own. So in November, right in the middle of teaching one of those six-week intensives, I said to my wife that it was too much, and after the new year I wanted to look into different options. My sister teaches online for Eastern University, so maybe they had something more suitable. Two weeks later, Messiah College contacted me out of the blue, asking me to teach a section of their intro Bible course. I couldn’t believe it. I hadn’t even thought of Messiah, though my two oldest sons are students there, and it was well before the New Year. The Bible department chair got my name from his colleagues who lead the Clergy Leadership Program of Central PA, of which I was a participant in 2015-17. One thing led to another, and I was hired. We started telling our older boys about it, and our second son, a sophomore, wrote back and said, “I think I’m in that class!” And sure enough he was! It was amazing how God answered my prayer far beyond what I expected or asked for. So I have started teaching for Messiah.
And that is where the fear comes in. The Messiah class is not online, but in class. A few weeks ago it hit me, I’m going to have to stand in front of a class, including my son, and actually have something to say. Online classes had none of that. As of this writing, I have finished two weeks of the Messiah class, and I think it is going okay, but I can tell you that you I’ve had anxiety and fear about it! Additionally, this past week I was up at my seminary three days for my doctoral residency, and there, too, I can feel very intimidated surrounded by really smart and amazing people, all thinking about doctorates and dissertations. Put together, it can feel overwhelming.
I’m almost certain that is what led to my embarrassing dream!
In this final series of posts in our study through Deuteronomy we are going to meet someone who also faced what could easily seem like an insurmountable situation. A guy named Joshua. He was about to enter into the top leadership role in the nation of Israel, following in the giant footsteps of Moses.
Have you ever experienced a transition of leadership where a long-time leader was concluding their time as leader, and a new person was stepping into that role? It may be a company you work for. It may be a volunteer organization. A church. A family. Might be in government. A Coach. Recently here in our school district we’ve had a couple long-time leaders move on. Some elementary school principals. Then the superintendent of the district retired two years ago.
These transitions evoke all kinds of emotions don’t they? People miss the previous leader. People are afraid that the new leader will mess things up.
Transitions are hard. They raise fear in us. Transitions can make it seem like the foundations are shaking. When there are pastoral transitions, some statisticians say, on average, 25% of the congregation will leave. Usually not all at once in some big exodus, but often gradually, over a few years. Why? We get scared, fearful.
And you know what, the new leader is scared too. Fearful. And it comes out in our dreams, in bodily anxiety, panic. How do we deal with this?
In Deuteronomy chapters 31-34 we’re going to learn about a leadership transition, and a bunch of people that could be fearful. Check back in for part 2 of the series!